At the time Ricky Martin performed his hit single “La Copa del la Vida” on the Grammy Awards stage and ignited the Latin pop craze in the US he had already been in the music business for a decade and a half, with sixteen albums to his name, four of them solo; appeared in several TV shows and films, including a major role in General Hospital and the Spanish translation of Disney’s Hercules; and acted on Broadway as Marius in a production of Les Misérables. “Livin’ la Vida Loca” – a song famous enough to boast a full-length Wikipedia article – soon followed, along with new albums, new screen time, and a new philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with a focus on tackling human trafficking.
Although he has only been widely out as gay since 2010, speculation on his sexuality had been rampant ever since he began gaining popularity in the US. In an early interview with Barbara Walters she pressured him to come up, which she now says she regrets because his silence was taken as an admission; fortunately for Martin, his career does not appear to have suffered, and he is still actively touring.
Martin’s well-decorated Twitter is available for viewing here.
Sporting a CV with over 180 published articles and eight books, Joan Roughgarden is a prolific ecologist and evolutionary biologist. She is best known for Evolution’s Rainbow, in which she argues that Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection fails to account for the great diversity of sexual and gendered behavior in animals, and assumes a more competitive model than exists in reality. (The truism that smaller gametes necessitate less investment in child-rearing fails, for example, when applied to seahorses, a species in which the female deposits eggs into the male’s egg sac. For a more in-depth explanation of Roughgarden’s views, see her TEDx talk here.) As of the time of this writing she is working as an adjunct professor for the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, her latest post in a lengthy academic career.
Roughgarden attributes her novel critiques in part to her quest to make sense of her own trans status, and hopes that input from sexual and gender minorities will add nuance to evolutionary theory.
Prince Manvendra had a dramatic coming out experience. Although his sexual orientation became semi-public after a nervous breakdown in 2002 for which he was hospitalized, it wasn’t until the story hit the press – and The Oprah Winfrey Show – in the mid-2000s that he became an internationally recognized gay celebrity. At the time of this writing is is the only out contemporary member of the Indian royalty. (For more details about his personal life, try this Huffington Post interview.)
While much of Manvendra’s fame comes from his title, he is an accomplished activist, and runs a foundation he started dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS and improving the lives of LGBT people in the Indian state of Gujarat. He has spoken at a number of high-profile events, including the São Paulo gay pride parade and the Euro Pride gay festival, and appeared on the BBC reality show Undercover Princes.
Pamela Lyndon Travers was a 20th century actor, poet, and author of books that she insisted weren’t only for children. Although the recent Disney take on her story contains numerous inaccuracies, it is true that she was responsible for creating the iconic character of Mary Poppins. After the film version of her first Poppins book was completed she swore off sequels, citing the overdone cheeriness and animated sequences; she even went so far as to ban the movie’s composers from writing additional music for the stage adaptation.
In her private life Travers was not a solitary person. She traveled widely and adopted one half on a pair of twins (she left the other behind because of an astrological reading). Her sexual orientation is a matter of some debate, with Wikipedia describing her relationships with women as “ambiguous“. A plausible interpretation of her life is that she had both male and female lovers, including a woman she lived with for a decade, and was a member of a mostly-lesbian mystic writing circle; therefore, she is listed here as bisexual, although she never referred to herself as such.
Although Miyazawa Kenji’s work went largely unrecognized during his lifetime he is now known as one of Japan’s foremost poets and authors of children’s literature. He was a committed Buddhist and a vegetarian – a rarity in a country that values seafood as a staple – and frequently wrote about interspecies dialogues, among other examples of empathic communication. One of his better known pieces, “Strong in the Rain,” exemplifies his focus on nature and self-sacrifice; in it, he longs for a robust body so that he can better serve his neighbors, even as they look down on him for his ordinariness. When the 2011 earthquake hit Japan the poem gained memetic popularity, becoming a symbol of Japanese resilience. (Several more poems, in English and German, are available here, along with a short article on a choreography based on his works. A few more are available for downloading in English here. Works in the original Japanese can be found here. For a more detailed analysis of Miyazawa’s themes and techniques, try this website.)
Miyazawa is included on this blog with the caveat that speculation about his asexuality does not appear to be (at least per a cursory search) rooted in anything he himself expressed, but rather his seeming lack of interest in any romantic or sexual connection. His writing is entirely devoid of sexual themes and he was never known to have taken any sort of partner; in fact, his deepest connection was reputed to be with nature.
Blues music has a rich history of queer singers going all the way back to stars like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Foster’s own Grammy-nominated tunes blend folk, jazz, gospel, country, and – yes – blues, sticking her in both Contemporary and Traditional award categories. She learned her trade from a combination of church piano and touring with a band during her stint in the Navy, a history that she shares (along with her sexual orientation) in her album The Truth According to Ruthie Foster. Although her initial success was with a more folk sound, she has since transitioned back to her blues roots.
Her homepage, complete with a music section containing several streaming songs, can be found here. For a full 20 minutes of Foster’s music, click here.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs quite literally wrote the book – or twelve books, as it happened – on homosexuality. He pioneered the idea that sexual orientation is inborn, and accompanied it with calls for civil equality. His term for gay men (‘Urning’) was coined in an effort to separate sexual acts from the actors and emphasize the centrality of sexual orientation as a part of an individual’s identity; although it was later replaced by ‘homosexual’, ‘Urning’ (derived from a portion of Plato’s Symposium) was the first term of its kind.
Although his belief that gay men had inherently female minds would read as curious (or offensive) to modern audiences, ‘anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa’ (‘a female soul trapped in a male body’) became a popular paradigm. Noting that hermaphroditism was possible in animals, he theorized that the only way for ‘natural’ opposite-sex attraction to be interrupted would be if (for example) a gay man wasn’t really a man at all, but something in between. (While it is possible that Ulrichs truly did have a ‘female soul’ – that is, was transgender – and used his own gendered experiences as a theoretical foundation, there is little evidence save for the above phrasing and a childhood insistence that he was a girl. As a result, this blog uses male pronouns; however, it is impossible to be sure either way.)